Mural of General Sosabowski and Polish Airmen, Foxglove Street, Belfast

In April 2016, a local artist and community group unveiled a mural showing the service of Polish forces during the Second World War on Fixglove Street, Belfast.

In April 2016, Foxglove Street in east Belfast welcomed a new mural gracing a gable wall facing onto Beersbridge Road. A joint venture between Ballymac Friendship Centre and local artist Dee Craig created the stunning artwork. Among the subjects are General Stanisław Sosabowski, fighter pilots of R.A.F. 303 Squadron, and a contemporary British airborne soldier. It was hoped the mural would help increase good relations between Northern Irish and Polish residents in the area.

General Stanisław Franciszek Sosabowski C.B.E. was a Polish military leader during the Second World War. He was born on 8th May 1892 in Stanisławów, Poland, and as a young man, became a member of the Polish national paramilitary organisation Drużyny Strzeleckie.

The Great War

By 1913, he was serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army, soon promoted to the rank of Corporal in 58th Infantry Regiment. Within 2 years, his bravery on the battlefields saw promotion to First Lieutenant. In 1915, having sustained wounds, he withdrew from the front. Due to those wounds, he became a Staff Officer in the Ministry of War Affairs in the new Polish Army in November 1918.

The Second World War

In the inter-war years, Sosabowski continued his studies and continued to rise through the ranks of the Polish Army. By the outbreak of the Second World War, he was a Colonel in 21st (Children of Warsaw) Infantry Regiment. This Regiment saw heavy fighting following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. On 16th September 1939, his troops helped repel the attack of the German Army’s 23rd Infantry Regiment. They launched a counter-attack and destroyed the advancing enemy Regiment.

As German forces continued their advance through Poland, Sosabowski became a Prisoner of War. He escaped and joined the Polish Resistance under a false name before making his way to France. There, he took command of the Polish Army’s 4th Infantry Division at the request of the Polish Government in Exile. On arrival in London, England, he took command of 4th Rifles Brigade and converted them into the Polish Army’s first Parachute Brigade. He made his first jump aged 49 years old.


In 1944, Sosabowski had concerns regarding the feasibility of Operation MARKET GARDEN. Despite his concerns and intelligence from Dutch Resistance, the operation went ahead as planned. Sosabowski’s 1st Independent Parachute Brigade dropped in parts with the General landing near Driel on 19th September 1944. The main part of the Brigade dropped 2 days later in a heavily defended area. Brigade Artillery landed with the British 1st Airborne Division.

During the battle, Sosabowski’s troops attempted to cross the Rhine 2 times, using rubber boats under heavy fire. Around 200 Poles made it across to reinforce beleaguered British Airborne Troops. Following the Battle of Arnhem, Sosabowski and the Independent Parachute brigade received much unjust criticism. Such was the impact, the Polish General Staff removed him as Commanding Officer on 27th December 1944. The role played by the Brigade and its Commanding Officer has since been questioned. In 2012, 1st Airborne Major Tony Hibbert appealed for Sosabowski to receive a pardon and be honoured for his role at Arnhem. Sosabowski died in London, England on 25th September 1967.

Interview with Professor Hal Sosabowski

In 2016, a mural depicting Polish forces focusing on their role during the Second World War appeared in East Belfast. Among those featured in the mural was General Stanisław Franciszek Sosabowski C.B.E. The general led the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. His great-grandson Professor Hal Sosabowski kindly joined us to tell more of the story.

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